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Proposal framework

This is a suggested framework for a research proposal. The elements may not all be necessary for your research – some sections may be combined or appear in a different order. Your supervisor is the best person to advise you on what’s expected.

A research proposal should be a maximum of 10,000 words for a doctoral candidate and 7,000 words for a Master by Research candidate.

1. Cover Page

The cover page should show:

  • the title of your research;
  • your name and student number;
  • the name of the degree sought;
  • the name of your Principal Supervisor; and
  • the date of your research proposal submission.

2. Abstract

The abstract should be short (not more than 250 words), clear and provide a succinct overview of the research. It should stand alone as a description of the proposed research, stating what is intended to be done, why it needs to be done and what the results will mean for theory and/or practice.

3. Introduction/Literature Review

The introduction to the proposal should provide a clear rationale for the research and describe the background to the proposed research, based on existing theoretical literature, conceptual frameworks, or assumptions that underpin the research.

The proposal should demonstrate the significance of the proposed research within the context of what is already known and make clear the specific issues to be addressed. It should lead to a concise statement of the questions that the research is designed to answer or the hypotheses to be tested.

The objective is to demonstrate, through careful use of the literature, how the proposed research will make a substantial and original contribution to scholarship and knowledge. Note that this review of the literature is shorter and more focused than that required for the final thesis.

4. Method and materials

This section should contain, in sufficient detail, a clear outline of the proposed research, including intended participants, design and methods to be employed, research procedure and data analysis, in a manner consistent with ethical guidelines.

It’s important to plan the data collection and data analysis carefully at this time to ensure that the research question(s) can be answered.

5. References

You should consult your supervisors regarding the choice of the most appropriate referencing style for your discipline. It’s recommended that you use bibliographic software, such as EndNote, so that the reference list is generated automatically.

6. Appendices

  • Timeline - the appendices must include a timetable for the research, aiming at submission approximately 36 months after date of commencement for a (full time) doctoral candidate and 24 months for a (full time) master by research candidate.
  • Budget - appendices should also include detailed budget information covering expenses for fieldwork, consumables, additional library services, specialist software, photocopying, purchase of materials or any other legitimate expenses. The intention is to demonstrate an indicative budget that can be met by the candidate, the supervisor, the school or the University.  It should be updated annually.
  • Confidentiality or intellectual property - any confidentiality or intellectual property issues must also be drawn to the attention of the Associate Dean Research through disclosure in the appendices. This is particularly important since candidates may not undertake research that requires the signing of a confidentiality agreement, or the imposition of restrictions on the publication of any resultant thesis, without prior approval. 

Creative research proposal framework

If you’re undertaking creative research this traditional framework may not be appropriate to your project.

For advice and support in this area you should contact a research consultant listed on the Research support staff web page.

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